It’s definitely one of the most thankless jobs out there.
They make sacrifices from their families. They make sacrifices to their own lives. And it remains one of the dangerous jobs out there.
From director Jaren Hayman, the documentary showcases the lives and careers of famous bodyguards for Justin Bieber to Nelson Mandela to Whitey Bulger and even well-trained security organizations used overseas.
The film narration is voiced by Kim Coates.
BODYGUARDS: SECRET LIVES FROM THE WATCHTOWER is available on VOD today and in select theaters.
Read the transcript below.
LRM: Let’s start with this—where did you get the original idea for this project for BODYGUARDS? This is a subject that not everybody thinks about.
Jaren Hayman: It’s never been done, besides Kevin Costner twenty-five years ago. [Chuckles] I saw someone Tweet yesterday saying that it was awesome.
It came from Jeremy Bieber, a producer on the movie. We did a few movies in Justin Bieber’s world and he’s a good friend of mine. Just by being in that world, we see the absolute madness going on. It is madness.
There was an incident last summer where we were in a city—it was a pretty big shit show that went down. A gun was pulled. We were in the middle of it. The idea came from my producer partner Burton Rice in Montreal. He called me the week after in looking for our next production. We looked at it that a bodyguard movie had never been done. We ran with it. It was one of those things I wanted to capture the industry as a whole—not just music, not just politics and even including crime. So here we are.
LRM: You weren’t personally there for that gun incident, were you?
Jaren Hayman: Oh, yeah. I was.
LRM: So you witnessed it completely?
Jaren Hayman: Yeah, I witnessed it. Without saying too much since I’m not allowed to, there was some money went missing. It could’ve been from our team. Advanced security was there dealing with it. It turned out it had to do with a promoter with the money. Something was financed by some gangsters. It was just a big shit show.
That’s what bodyguards do. They deal with any and all types of events like that. It was an interesting foray into the world. That’s for sure.
LRM: Gosh, the entire time I thought you had experience being a bodyguard yourself. That’s what the movie felt like.
Jaren Hayman: [Laughter] Yes, I do get asked that all the time. People do ask me if I’m a bodyguard. I’m like, “No, nope. Not at all, man. Just a filmmaker.” [chuckles]
LRM: If it makes you feel any better, I thought you looked like one especially with that short clip of yourself. Was that you in the end of the film? [chuckles]
Jaren Hayman: [Laughter] Yeah, that’s me. It means you watched the whole movie. [Laughter] I like it! That’s a test. That’s an Easter egg in there.
LRM: Great! I’m glad I passed the test. Well, how did you want to develop the narration for this documentary. It seems like there are five—very, very different stories that you had to integrate here.
Jaren Hayman: From the jump, I wanted to get a very good narrator. I thought that with exactly five stories or even six with the segment on the female bodyguards, you don’t have time as most documentary filmmakers to develop naturally. You need a good voice to tell people on what’s going on. You also need the voice to bring you back in when you jump from story-to-story.
Before when I did the movie or perhaps very early on, I knew on who I wanted. There were two guys. Joe Rogan was the first guy that popped into my head. Kim Coates was the second one who popped into my head. I just couldn’t get Kim’s voice out of my head. I knew he was the guy. He is also Canadian. Boy too. I reached out to his agency. It happened pretty quickly. He saw the appeal and knew what it would do in his role. It was just one of those things that lined up just nicely.
LRM: What in particular with Kim Coates’ voice that you knew by saying, “He is it.”
Jaren Hayman: [Laughter] Yeah, I know, right? Yeah, exactly. I was a pretty big fan of the guy. I wasn’t looking around specifically for it. He had an incredible career and SONS OF ANARCHY put himself into the next level. He is an absolute pro. He came to Toronto and banged up the narration. He was in the vocal booth for five hours and wouldn’t leave until he was happy or I was happy. It was great. He was a wonderful addition to the film.
LRM: For this project, I imagined you had the easiest time doing the story with Justin Bieber’s bodyguards. You probably had the best access to all of that.
Jaren Hayman: Yes and no, man. Everything in his world is crazy. We did his acoustic show and also did his second show on the tour. I don’t know if you have been around music at all. Tours take a while to get things going and get smooth. It’s obviously in a super tight schedule as well. We had the access there to get the interviews and get people to talk. It’s still a shit show. You have to be there.
LRM: Nothing during the filming process were there any more incidents, right?
Jaren Hayman: You’ll get a few things during the concert. There are certainly things off-camera that we couldn’t show as far with a couple of fights—and we didn’t want to get it in there. Bodyguards are there to prevent ninety-eight percent of anything that is bad. Over a long stretch of time, the two percent can add up. The things that do happen are like Kim Kardashian in Paris. It’s a very small example, because ninety-eight percent that does happen—nobody knows about.
We had a fair share of stuff that went down. The most dangerous was probably on how the movie started.
LRM: I would think that being part of a camera crew, people would tend to be more well-behaved. They may be more tamed when the cameras are on.
Jaren Hayman: Maybe the guards themselves. You have to remember something—we are in a world of cell phone cameras. Anything that happens, like fights, people want to get it on film. I know that with cameras, lights and audio—it would be a little different. But, we’re in that age that cameras are on all the time.
LRM: If I recalled from the documentary, you watched the training exercises with Tairon Coronel and the Shadow Group. Was it hard to get access for that? I would think they want to keep those training exercises a secret, particularly if it’s going to be revealed in a documentary.
Jaren Hayman: Oh, yeah. Big time. As you saw, they got into some techniques and definitely not all. The second thing is when they were training, there was some special ops training as well. We couldn’t get them on camera at all. That was a little tricky too. They were very standoffish with that.
That was incredibly a thing to see. That’s all live fire exercises. They do whatever they can to get the blood pumping and the adrenaline going. You’re not really in Iraq or Afghanistan, but they’ll do an intense workout and have live fire all around.
Our cameras were rolling through all those shoot houses, which were kind of scary. The guy, who runs the place, is a retired Navy Seal. He looks like he could snap my neck in two seconds. Accidents can happen in these shoot houses. We were like, “Oh, that’s great.” We still filming as people are shooting live ammunition. It all worked out. No one got shot.
LRM: I don’t know. After watching that, I was scared for you. That was really intense.
Jaren Hayman: [Laughter]
LRM: Weren’t you in that position where you were, “Oh, shit! There are real bullets flying next to me.” [Laughter]
Jaren Hayman: Exactly. It was intense. I liked it! It was great.
LRM: Another thing that I was curious was that you managed to get Whitey Bulger’s bodyguard to go on camera. I was wondering, “How did managed to talk to that guy? He was convicted before. Why would he wanted to go on camera to talk to you?”
Jaren Hayman: That was the hardest part of getting anywhere in the film. A.) Tracking him down. B.) Getting him to talk to me. C.) Getting him to do it.
As far as what he was able to tell us, that wasn’t the big issue. He already told the cops everything. On what he told us was relatively public court knowledge. He got six years instead of twenty years, because he showed people on where the dead bodies were. As far as being legally responsible, he already did time for that and he paid his dues. He was fine to talk about it.
He's still coming to grips on everything that happened. He still hasn’t forgiven Whitey at all. He was his best friend for twenty years. The guy lied to him this entire time. So showcasing that part of his side was a bit sensitive.
And as well, BLACK MASS recently came out while we were shooting at the time. He fucking hated it. He hated on how he was portrayed in the movie. He didn’t exactly admitted that. But, that might be a little nudge in our decision.
LRM: [Chuckle] Oh, that’s great. He then complimented you for showing the real side of his story.
Jaren Hayman: Exactly. It was fun. He comes from a really smart family. He had a brother who went to Yale and his other brother went to Harvard. He is an incredibly a well-read and well-spoken guy. You’ll start to like him. He and I spent hours on the phone before meeting. We had this pseudo-friendship. You have to pull yourself back a little bit and realize that this guy is a killer.
Maybe that’s a good side of filmmaking or maybe it’s a bad side of filmmaking. You really get to know these people and not just seeing their demon side.
LRM: You also went internationally to find other bodyguards in South Africa and in England. Could you tell me about the process of discovering those folks?
Jaren Hayman: For South Africa, I’m good friends with one of Nelson Mandela’s grandson. It’s just one of those things that it worked out. He was more than willing to help put us in touch with these guys. We had Rory [Steyn] guaranteed until three days we left for South Africa. And to get Jason Tshabalala’s side is also incredible.
As you saw in the movie, these guys were trying to kill each other literally. Rory was in the special branch going out to take apart anti-apartheid individuals. That was wild. It was really cool to see how their story shaped the narrative of the entire country.
They managed to put their differences aside. They ended up discovering that they were very similar. It was really cool to see.
As far as the female side of things, I really wanted to tell the female story in this business. There aren’t that many female protection agents in the world. Jacquie [Davis] is one of the best. The close protection thing is simply one small part that Jacquie does. Jacquie does hostage rescue in Kuwait and other places in the Middle East.
It’s unfortunate we couldn’t tell more of her stories. There’s no footage behind it and we couldn’t just have a talking head. She comes on as bad-ass as they can get. I was lucky on tracking her down. It was her or these Chinese bodyguards we were considering.
Originally, I wanted to do a whole lot more. There was a female all-protection team in Libya for [Muammar] Gaddafi. It could’ve been done. There wasn’t enough time unfortunately.
LRM: That’s true. When I think of female bodyguards, I always thought of those rich Russians in Moscow who always have those female models next to them. There are lots of female bodyguards out there.
Jaren Hayman: Exactly. Exactly.
LRM: Let me start wrapping things up with you. Could you talk about some of your future projects you may have after this documentary? Is there another thing with Justin Bieber again? [Laughter]
Jaren Hayman: No, we’re actually keeping the BODYGUARDS thing going. There are a couple of things in development right now. I can’t really speak too much on it. When things get popping, we’ll make sure to let you guys know.
LRM: Great. One last question—I know you made the movie and I’ve seen the movie—what is the one particular lesson you want the audience to learn from this film?
Jaren Hayman: I don’t think there really is a lesson. In the end, I wanted to show something to the world that hadn’t been shown before. That was my real reason for doing it. You get to see what these people are like. At the end of the day, the human side does really come across in the end. They sacrifice so much to get where they are. It’s not like they made a lot of sacrifices for themselves. They make these sacrifices for other people.
It’s a very thankless job and to see them doing it in stride. That would be the main takeaway, I say.
LRM: Great! You showed it pretty well. I never really thought about this side of the business before. Thank you.
Jaren Hayman: Appreciate that!
BODYGUARDS: SECRET LIVES FROM THE WATCHTOWER is available on VOD today and in select theaters.
Source: Exclusive to LRM